BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 2:15, The Other Side
Monday, March 6, 2006

A rendezvous with Serenity on Saint Albans goes sideways real damn quick, and now the Operative is now hot on Greyson's tail. Which means he needs to brave a blizzard to escape, if even for one night.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1350    RATING: 0    SERIES: FIREFLY

Well, it was a good run, but after twelve episodes, I decided to turn the storyline a bit. There's a big change coming for the end of this episode, one that takes a while to fully explain, so don't y'all fret. Also, you hear the first conversation between Zane and his own Harvey, and a quick check up on how poor ole' Friday's doin'. Mostly though, this episode is about that aforementioned development, necessitated by a brief stay in a cave. Also, look a pair of folk ain't heard from in a little while to make an appearance, and please: Try not to get shot. Joss owns Firefly and Serenity. I just steal from him. Don't blame me for shoddy merchandise ;) Feedback? Please.

The Other Side

The blasting winds screamed and swirled, stripping away the meager heat his body could produce entirely too quickly for his liking. It wasn't the best idea to wander out into the blizzard. Especially weren't so good an idea when the night temperatures could hit a hundred below in the open. Why anybody lived here baffled him rather entirely. He'd once gone ten years without seeing snow. He was a spacer. He was used to temperatures bein' more or less the same. Not this wild up and down seasonal gou shi. This was brutality manifested. He pulled her silent, but doubtlessly alert form along behind him. She didn't exactly help him, but she hardly could be said to hinder, neither. He'd really rather have at least one full pair of eyes lookin' for a place to stick it out, maybe start a fire, but way she was now, it was a wildly optimistic desire. "Too damn cold," he muttered through chattering teeth. Some might think it apt, bein' on a snowy planet this close to the Yule, but he still hated it. Take him someplace hot, and he was happy as a clam in the muck. Cold... whole different story. Once again, he pondered why he'd done something so damn-stubborn-stupid as runnin' off into a blizzard with a catatonic crazy woman. The only answer, enfuriatin' as it was, was 'cause it's the right damn thing to do. Like his mama always said. If y'can't do somethin' smart, which stayin' indoors on a night like this surely would be, do somethin' right. "This is your fault you know," he muttered, the moisture in his breath freezing before it even got a chance to dissipate. Every word was accompanied by a chorus of almost inaudible tinkles as the ice chrystals fell to the ground. The wind had gone down, of late. Small mercy. Sylvia, of course, didn't offer her opinion, simply staring ahead. Jacob pursed his lips, already cracked and bleeding from the freezer-burn they'd gotten out here. He was numb pretty much everywhere he didn't hurt, including the most recent gunshot he'd suffered on his arm. Just a graze, but it didn't do him any good to have it out here. Where there was nobody could help him. He might have feared it to fester, but since this place was colder than any refridgerator he could think of, there was about zero chance of an infection bein' all nice and toasty long enough to get him. John must be frayin' pretty damn hard to pull somethin' like that, he thought. First time he'd seen the Operative alone, and when the hun dahn sees him back, without so much as a how'd'y'do, John upped and shot him. How the Operative found him was a concern that plagued him rather completely. He'd been sure that transmission was all manner of scrambled, but just like the Doc had said, it got traced. Damn them. Damn the hun dahn what took the doc, leavin' that weepin' mess. Jacob growled, cursing the 'Verse entire while he was at it. Seemed like the whole of it was out for him of late anyhow. "Weren't you all crazy," Jacob muttered, "wouldn't need to come to this fen dong, pathetic excuse for a planet. Wouldn't'a got shot by that sha gua gao tzao duh gan nin niang Operative. And you know what sting's more'n all that? Havin' to be out in a gorram blizzard!" As to what Sylvia thought of the declaration, she was mum. Part of him wondered if he'd been doing that the last half hour just to see if he could irritate an answer out of her. In truth, though, he knew it was just the cold. Ruttin' cold. "Lucky for you Legacy ain't anywhere near here. Otherwise... well, I'd be a touch more annoyed, safe t'say," Jacob muttered. "Didn't even meet the ruttin' Doc." He glanced back at her. She was staring forward, like she had been doing since her voice went all whooly then vanished altogether. Ice was gathering in her hair, he noted with dismay. She was gettin' all manner of colder than he was, by the look of it. Hell, they'd packed both 'em into as many layers as could be fit, and still the cold tore at them. And she was starting to flag more with every minute, every mile, or whatever a body measured distance with in this white hell. With a curse to the God which he'd stopped believin' in a damn long time ago, he turned and scooped the woman up, since the choice about now was between carryin' or draggin' her. The steps were double heavy having to carry her through the banks of snow. The low whistle of the wind was descending from the mountains again. Well, every-damn-where on this ruttin' planet was mountains, but it was comin' down from on high. What the hell had he done in the last life to pull this down on his own self? What had he done in this one? He knew if that wind got him, he was a corpse. So he moved. Something caught his eye in the darkness. Well, it was relatively dark, bein' just about to go black. But this was a place of absolute shadow. Something the light couldn't reach. And if the light couldn't reach it, sure as merry hob the wind couldn't. He slogged toward the folding in the rocks. Her form was going limp. He din't know whether that was a good thing or an excrusiatin'ly bad one, so he picked up his pace, rushing headlong into the cave. He allowed himself to fall down, then, listen to the wind as it descended and blew everywhere but at him. It was a bit warmer here, if by warmer one could say fifty below rather than seventy. As he tried to work some heat, and feeling, for that matter, back into his legs, he noticed a sound, just on the edge of hearing. Something scuffing against stone. Just his luck, if he'd dropped himself into the one occupied bear den on Saint Albans. Most bears just upped and died. Weren't tough enough by a half for the climate, was said. Jacob forced himself to his feet, pressing his hand to the wall and moving deeper into the cave. His hand strayed to his hilt, but he remembered that the sword was still on Legacy, so instead moved to his holster. Inwardly, he chastized himself for reaching for his sword first. A sword against a bear. Not even lunacy, that, just plain stupidity. He pulled the Mauser up and out of the holster, taking slow, silent steps. Couldn't do to blunder around. He moved deeper, and noticed that it was becoming a lot warmer. As in positive temperatures warm. He peeked around the corner. It was dark, here, too, but he was sure he could make out a shape. It was large and bear-like. Goh huong tong, them animal rights folk weren't here and he'd prefer to live than to not. He stepped out and raised his firearm. Then the bear did something most bears didn't never do. It ruttin' shot him. "Jayne!" a woman's voice shouted, as Jacob fell back to the ground, holding his chest. "What?" Jayne's unmistakable voice answered. "You shot him," the high voice stated. "Typically what one does," Jayne said. The light amplified in the cave, revealing the fairly obvious mercenary, and the willowy slip of a woman by the name of River Tam. Jayne recognized Jacob right about then, 'cause he said. "Oh. Shucks." "Son of a bitch!" Jacob moaned, he ran his fingers along his chest. Nope, no blood. Finally, plannin' ahead netted him somethin'; the ceramic plate under his shirt caught the bullet. Best money he ever spent, he thought as he forced himself to an elbow. "What the hell you doin' here?" Jayne asked, still pointing Petunia at Jacob's soon-to-be-brilliantly-bruised chest. Jacob shook his head. "That, buddy, is a damn long story." <> Zane grumbled as the synchronizer came out in two pieces. Hell, he'd been off his feet for a month, end they'd let the ship go this far to hell? He made a note of never becoming comatose again. "Do you think she actually saw me?" Elias asked. Zane rolled his eyes. "How the hell could she? You're just a figment of my imagination, and a damn annoyin' one, too," Zane pointed out. "I wouldn't be so sure of that," Elias pouted. The big man seemed to do that a lot, nowadays. Pouting and pissing and moaning. Hell, he'd been like that since Zane woke up on Newhall and Elias saw Sylvia was still crazy. It was irritating. It really was. "Zane?" came another, this time real, voice. "What is it, boss?" Zane replied, retrieving the other half of the synchronizer from its housing. One of these days Zane was going to get dead an' the ship was going to drop right out of the sky. "You got the heating all rigged up?" Jacob appeared, staring right through the non-existent Elias' back. As such, Zane couldn't rightly tell what the Captain looked like at the moment. "Had it rigged for the last hour, boss," Zane said. "Remind me, why in the hell're we stopping on Saint Albans? Ain't it just an iceball?" "It is that," Jacob agreed. Elias finally got Zane's look and stepped out of the way. "But we got some folk are due to meet us down on that rock, and ain't too many go out that far, if you catch my meaning." Zane shook his head. "We can't make this kinda trip lightly, boss. These parts ain't been broke in yet. Any one of them could go a-bibbledy and leave us driftin', which bodes all kinda not well for us, no matter which way we're headed." "Then best they don't go a-bibbledy, then," Jacob said. "Chow's in thirty." "Who's cookin'?" Zane inquired. "You are." "Right!" Zane said, putting down his tools and letting the busted synchronizer fall into the scrap trough. He could take a crack at fixin' that later, but now, it was his second favorite activity. Livin' alone on Jiangyin made a hell of a cook out of him awful fast, since it was either cook or starve, and he ain't never had any weight to loose on him. He wiped off his hands on a rather disgusting rag and made his way to the sink. "Something is going to go wrong," Elias muttered, leaning against the back of a chair. Well, he appeared to lean, but that weren't the way of the world. Zane had decided a while back that the 'Verse made a lot more sense if he was a bit crazy than if he were sane and there was an actual invisible, incorporeal man walkin' about Legacy. Just practical, that. He turned on the tap to blastingly hot and began to scrub the day's work from his hands. "Something always goes wrong," Zane muttered. "Especially wrong," Elias corrected. "Glad to hear there's a distinction. I'll keep right on that," Zane replied sardonically. Elias stood up and leaned on the counter, his eyes hard on the lanky mechanic. "Things are changing. Something about this ship will change in the next twenty four hours, and I cannot tell what it is." Zane grinned. "I do," Elias recoiled a bit, as if in worry. "In twenty four hours, it'll be a hell of a lot colder." "Mock if you will, but I know how this works. Connections are being made, something inviolate and misplaced. Something already done, but for the wrong reasons, now." "And if you feel like repeating that in either English or Mandarin, feel free to do so," Zane said. "Gorram gibberish, you ask me." "What's gibberish?" Monday's voice came down from the front of the ship. He smiled up at her and turned off the tap, now that his hands were finally free of the clinging grease which seeped into ever crevasse if he let. "What?" Zane said. "Oh, nothing." "Do you often talk to yourself?" she asked, skirting around the corner of the counter and to her kettle. The thing had been there as long as they'd had the ship, but since Monday came aboard, that was her kettle. "From time to time," Zane said. "Surest way of findin' your intellectual equal, or so's I hear." It was a bit of a lie, he knew. Hell, before Elias showed up, he didn't never talk to himself 'xcept when he was up to his neck in engine, an' he weren't really talkin' to himself, so much as to the engine. They responded to soothing sounds, he found. Kinda like a puppy. As he went about preparing dinner, he felt the elephant in the room. He held his piece as long as he could, but eventually, he just had to ask. "How's Friday doing today?" he asked quietly. Monday sighed, not even sparing him a disdainful look, which spoke volumes about her frame of mind. "She's... well, she isn't crying all the time anymore. I almost wish she was, though." "Shuh muh?" Zane muttered, noting how close he came to nicking a fingertip when she threw in that last part. The words were something he might have expected, but the tone made them into something entirely else. "You didn't hear the cacophany she made?" Monday asked. "I've been up to my ankles in the engines since breakfast. Ain't really much to hear back there," Zane pointed out. Monday rubbed her brow, her robe slipping down to her elbow revealing long scratches. He must have glanced a bit too long, because she shot him a look and pushed the robe back up. "She has become... upset. Violent you might say." "Friday?" Zane asked incredulously. Monday nodded solemnly, seeming to be focused on the room half a floor and a hallway away. "What do you expect?" Elias said, rolling his eyes. "She's a woman that based her life dangerously around her sexuality." "How so?" Zane asked. "What?" Monday said. Elias skirted the counter, passing through where Monday was standing. "She was a woman very much in love with pleasure. Particularly of the sexual nature. When somebody used that as a weapon to torture her... well, it broke her. Have you ever had something you loved used against you?" "Not really," Zane admitted. "I wasn't done talking yet," Monday said curtly. He glanced from Elias to Monday, and then back to his preparations. "Well?" he prompted. "My sister, well, she based her life rather dangerously on her," Monday began. "Sexuality," Zane finished for her. "When that hun dahn done used her passions to torture her, it made a part of her snap." "Well," Monday said. "That's... I suppose you have been thinking about this for a while?" "Not really." She shook her head. "I only hope this hasn't damaged her irrepairably." Zane nodded. "There are enough damaged bodies on this ship as is. 'Specially with the way Syl's gone feng kuang, an' the boss is gettin' all manner of paranoid. Hell, I'm startin' t'think maybe you an' Casher an' maybe Anne'r the only sane one's on this boat." "We may just be," Monday nodded. "I notice you didn't include yourself on that short list." "You didn't know me a year ago, lady," Zane said, trying to keep images of the Beaumonde docks out of his mind. He didn't like thinking that he was capable of such... carnage, but it had happened before. It could happen again. That, and he had Elias for a roommate inside his own skull. His short introspection was interrupted as a scream sounded from the front of the ship, rage and pain and sorrow all intertwined in a way that even made Elias' skin crawl, an interesting trick since Elias didn't have skin. Monday dropped her kettle and raced back to her sister's room, her face gone wide eyed and otherwise slack. Zane watched her leave, still hearing that banshee wail, which only subsided nearly a minute after Monday descended into Friday's bunk. "Will she get better?" Zane asked, as he dropped the pot onto the stove, moving to clean up the mess Monday's rapid exodus had created. Elias ran his fingers through his hair, and sighed. "Only time will tell, little man," the dead man commented. "Only time will tell." <> Jacob rubbed his chest, right in the center where Jayne shot him. "Course, then when we got down, first man we run into is that ruttin' Operative, who was chasin' the two of you down, and he starts after us, considerin' I'm much closer to what he wants. Even shot me, which suprised the hell out of me." "You was surprised you got shot?" Jayne sneered. "Weren't surprised that I got shot, so much," Jacob ammended. "Hell, I get shot all the gorram time. And in retrospect I ain't too surprised that I got shot by you. It's the him shootin' me part which still surprises me. I'd figure he'd want to get closer, you know. The up close kill." "Wants to be close," River said, as if in explaination, "before he eats the dead." Jayne shook his head with a small smile, hugging the small woman close to himself. River's dark eyes were locked on the other telepath in the cave, though. Sylvia was curled fetal near the dim fire which Jayne and River were parked on the other side of. The hulking mercenary seemed to be holding River as if he was afraid she'd drift away, and she idly patted his arm every now and again. He didn't doubt that there was some sort of silent conversation going on there. "What about you?" Jacob said at last. Jayne scowled and spat. "All manner of problems," the mercenary said grimly. "An' that dumbass Mal ain't helpin' much way he's actin'. One a' these days, he's gonna get somebody killed, way he's goin' now." "It can't be that bad," Jacob scoffed. They didn't have to worry about an obsessed operative, so how bad could it be? "Isn't," River answered. "he spins a web that catches no flies." Jacob rolled his eye. "What was your plan. You know, after the blizzard lifts?" "Don't really got one," Jayne said slowly. "Just had to get the hell away 'fore that gan nin niang hurt my River girl," the dark telepath smiled airily at his words, letting the back of her head rest on his chest. The large man looked nothing so much as an over-possessive wolf, at that moment. And at every moment that Jacob saw him today, for that matter. "River," Jacob said, staring at the fire. "What happened to Syl?" Dark eyes opened, taking him in. "You assume she knows?" Jacob shrugged. "Seemed about the right thing to do. You bein' the only other telepath we know of what's still alive." "He's still alive. Parts of him," River said, a wistful smile on her delicate face. "Still," Jacob pressed, "she's hurtin', somehow, and I don't got a proper clue as how to help her. If I even can." River slipped out of Jayne's grasp easily, making her way around the fire to where Sylvia was curled. The young woman knelt down, laying the back of her hand against Sylvia's cheek. Jayne and Jacob shared a look, Jacob's being suspicion and confusion, and Jaynes being... he was tempted to say admiration. Had he known the man less, he surely would have at that. "She locked herself in the trunk," River said. "Threw the key in the lake. Sacrifice. Sold the land to keep the house, let the herd be slaughtered and sold." Jacob nodded. "She sacrificed her mind to save her soul?" River shot him a look which roughly said 'you are such a boob'. "She's broken, and she can't find all the pieces alone. Needs help. Needs... another." Jacob turned to Jayne. "Another?" "Don't rightly know," the man said, not even flicking an eye anywhere but at her. River had gone still, and Sylvia's eyes had finally drifted closed. "Kinda close to what she said, back then, though." "S' what?" Jacob asked. Jayne finally turned back to him, his blue eyes catching the dim light of the gelly-fire. "It were about half a year after... the Reavers, an' all that Miranda gos se. Zoe was still right broke up over Wash, an' ever'-damn-body was walkin' on eggs 'round her and the Cap'n." "Eggshells," Jacob corrected, and was rewarded with a 'shut the hell up' look. "Well, that night, Kaylee an' the doc was doin' as they did, Mal an' 'Nara was fightin' up a storm, as they did, an' Zoe... well, she was right the hell out of it. So, I's jus' sittin' at the table, cleanin' my guns, when th'little River girl come's staggerin' in, mutterin' 'bout all them's shoutin' at her. Tryin' make 'em all shut up. She reaches for Becky, maybe thinkin' to put a bullet to herself, and I catch her wrist. Right gentle like, since I know last time I tried holdin' her 'gainst her well, I damn near got my nuts twisted off." "And?" Jacob said. "Well, she just got this look on her face, like everythin' was just gone. Them eyes, well, they frightened the hell outta me, tell the truth. An' she said the eeriest damn thing. 'Always another to find the way home', it was." "Really?" Jacob said. Jayne scowled at the fire. "Didn't know what the hell it meant, back then. All's I knew was she started actin'... buggy... around me. Touchin' me all the time an' such. Just in passin' all the time. Didn't know what she was up to, till I remembered back when Pa had Timmie an' me break a horse. Y'don't just throw on a saddle, y'got get the horse used t'ya. Which means just touchin' it a spell. Din't help that Mal's blushin', psychotic bride was on the boat at the time. That got all manner a' awkward." "I imagine it would," Jacob muttered. It was about then that Jayne frowned. "Hell, I don't even know why'n the hell I'm spoutin' this. Ain't my way to go all gushy. Go t'sleep, damn it!" With that, Jayne turned away from the dim fire and rolled himself up in his bag, leaving it open. Obviously to allow River to join him, since there was no other bag for sleeping on. Jacob found a relatively even place on the stone and lay down, staring at the ceiling for a while. When at last the fatigue and the warmth reached a shatterpoint, he felt his eyelids drift closed. "He may want me," he heard River's soft voice, but it sounded as if it were coming from very far away, "but I need him. And so it shall be for you." <> Jacob stared at the battle-scarred cityscape around him. He took in the roads, more often torn and splintered than whole, and the bodies of folk what couldn't be cleared out from under rubble and suchlike. Fires burned, and the smell of cremating flesh nearly gagged him. He felt the Mauser in his hand. It had always served him well, he remembered. Too bad it wouldn't do against the billions of Reavers headed this way. Billions, a small part of him questioned. What the hell? There was maybe a few hundred thousand, at most, a small part of him retorted. But the greater part, the part in control, said billions, and he had a reason to believe them. "Jacob," he heard Sylvia's voice from beside him. That small part was surprised to hear her speak, and even more surprised to see her standing in her old gets, her bullet proof vest and her shotgun hanging from her hand. The greater part wasn't surprised at all. The greater part couldn't be surprised by anything, anymore. "What is it?" he asked. "That's the last of them," she said, pointing at the massive, looming figure of the Prometheus, standing upright on an obviously hastily constructed launch tower. Jacob nodded, and was shocked when for an instant, he saw himself, as if through Sylvia's eyes. He looked like hell, his hair greyed, his face creased with worry. Oddly, he seemed to have both eyes. Which confused him no small bit. "What about the plan?" Jacob asked, sliding a new spine of rounds into the gun. He looked past her, to where River was leaning against Jayne. She looked to be slightly older, and quite a bit more pregnant, even though Jayne looked just like Jayne always did. He heard rapidly approaching footfalls, and turned to see a familiar set of scarlet eyes peek around a corner nearly a block away. The albino woman sprinted the distance, closing it in astonishingly short order, stopping without so much as a heavy breath. "I'm sorry," Celia said, addressing Sylvia. "They're still coming. We've lost the Twenty Second and the Balls and Bayonets. Reynolds is gone." "Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiou sai-jing wuh duh pi gu!" Sylvia swore, hanging her head. "It was a poor game, but we played it to the end." "We were too far away," River said, staring into the sky. "Couldn't reach the Oldest One." Sylvia shook her head. "Hindsight's twenty-twenty, woman. Ain't nothin' we can do, now." Celia glanced between the two women. "Should I tell the men to withdraw?" she asked. Sylvia shook her head. "It's too late to rescue everybody. All you'd do is die, and horribly. A-sides, if we pull the men back, the Reaver's'll hit the ship before we get it off the ground, then we're all dinner, if not worse than. Believe me, I've seen how fast these things can move. That's all even assuming you even slip past the Faceless Men." Celia grinned. "I got there and back fine, didn't I?" "You got lucky," Sylvia said, motioning with her shotgun. "And I ain't changin' my mind. Where we're goin', we'll need every ruttin' set of chromosomes we can scrounge together, even wonky ones like you and Casher's. Get onto the ship." Jacob sighed, something the greater part of him was quite used to doing, by now. "I'm sorry," he said. "I couldn't stop this." "You never could," Sylvia said softly, kindly. "It wasn't yours to stop. If only we had more time. More minds. If only they hadn't taken Shadow..." Shadow? "I just want you to know," she said. "I don't blame you. I never did." Jacob smiled then, and the greater part of him warmed a bit. The lesser part wondered what the hell was going on. Was this a dream? If it was a dream, why was he actin' like this? It surely was a nightmare, because he couldn't imagine New Paris in flames like this unless... Oh, gos se. He finally recognized the cityscape around him, inflamed and choaked with smoke and detritus. He remembered that dream Sylvia had described more than a year ago, with the Reavers and the... but this wasn't the same as that. And he was still asleep. Word was, once a body figured he was having a dream, the dream went whooly and he woke up. That sure as the black weren't happenin' here, though. And the way Syl described it, it was him an' her and those two against a 'Verse of Reavers. This didn't add up. "I never thought I'd have to say goodbye to the 'Verse," Jacob said, staring at the spot on the horizon that River found so intriguing. "We'll start over," Fredesa said, appearing from the streets. He hobbled up, supporting his weight on one leg and a crutch. His face was starkly scarred, and a small boy clung to his remaining leg. It took a moment to realize how much that child looked like Zoe. "We have before, from Earth-that-was. We can again." "Strong words," Sylvia said. "I fear they're nothing more." "If it's all we have," Fredesa said, making his way toward the ship, "then I'll gladly take it." Jacob noticed, after a long moment, that the immediate area was empty. He felt Sylvia's hand on his shoulder, gentle and warm. "It's time to go, Jacob." He opened his eyes, taking in the jelly fire, still burning, despite the light he could see coming in from the entrance. The dream clung to him, though. Like taffee that had been heated to scalding then thrown at him. It burned, and clung, and burned some more. He forced himself up, noting that an arm slipped off his shoulder as he stood. He glanced behind him, giving a start when he saw that Sylvia had huddled up behind him at some point during the night. Shaking his head, trying to dispell some of the damn disconcerting feeling that seemed to have lodged into him from that ruttin' dream, he stood. Dreams weren't contagious, he told himself. He musta just been thinkin' on something Sylvia said that night whilest he was driftin' off. That was it. Had to be. He looked around the cave, noticing that River had indeed crawled in with Jayne, and he was contently droning away, one arm thrown over her and holding her tight. Jacob never figured Jayne for a cuddler. With a chuckle barely held in, he stretched, feeling every joint in his body crunch one at a time. Once he'd gone from his toes to his jaw, he walked out into the harsh sunlight. Hell, he had to squint just to see, with all the snow throwin' the light the way it was. This spot was a depression between two adjacent mountains, he noted, and was somewhat nice to look at, now that he wasn't running from an Operative, freezing, or dying. He moved past the opening and to a stand of stunted but no doubt resilent trees. In the brisk air, he took a leak. Whilst he was doing so, he heard a sound he'd heard many a time before. The shuttle door opening. He glanced around the boughs of the tree, beholding a large lump in the snow becoming a large shuttle under the snow. A familiar blonde head poked out, rubbing his hands and pulling out a communicator. Gorramit, Zane, Jacob thought. You was supposed to go somewhere the hell elsewhere! Not land right ruttin' next to me. Still, what's done is done. He quickly finished up before his manful bits froze and broke off. "Boss?" Zane said into his communicator. "Boss, do you here me?" "Just fine," Jacob answered, "'cause I'm standin' right here." "Wow, you're comin' in nice and loud," Zane remarked, still facing decidedly not toward Jacob. "That's 'cause I'm standin' right here," Jacob repeated. Zane turned toward him and gave a start. "Ruttin' hell!" Zane exclaimed. "I thought you was the hell elsewhere. How'd you run me down so quick?" Jacob was about to answer when he heard Jayne's cussin' approaching from the cave. The large man burst into sight, pulling on a ridiculous knit cap. "Well ain't that shiny?" Jayne said, clapping Jacob on the back so hard the smaller man was almost knocked over. "Done brung us a ride." "Didn't I just?" Jacob smirked. He plowed through the snow, pushing past Zane, who was now looking all manner of confused. "Where the hell did he come from?" Zane asked, after the mercenary had made his way into the shuttle. "Same place that one did," Jacob said, glancing at River, who was now making her way through Jayne's footsteps. She, too, had a ridiculous knit cap, but this one looked a few sizes too big, probably made for Jayne and stolen at an oppertune moment. She was smiling sublimely as she made her way to the shuttle. "Alright," Zane said, shivering against the cold. "I am a lost lamb, boss. What the hell happened?" Jacob shrugged. "Not over-much to say, I reckon. Ran, happened on a cave before we got dead, and inside we found these two." "Really?" "And Jayne shot me," Jacob said. "Wouldn't have been right hadn't someone shot you, today," Zane noted. "Operative shot me too, you know?" the mechanic shrugged at that. "If you found these two, did you get ahold of Simon?" Zane asked. Jacob shook his head. "And it don't seem likely that I'm gonna, for any stretch of time, way things turned out here. No matter where I go, he beats me to it." Zane shook his head, but with a small smile on his face. "Still gotta try, though. For her sake. Speakin' on which, shouldn't we be gettin' her right about now?" "Might as well," he affirmed, turning to return to the cave. But something stalled him. Rather, somebody, he guessed. Sylvia was slogging through the snow. She looked, to all the worlds, as if she'd just had a poor night's sleep, rubbing her eyes with thick gloved hands. "Syl?" Jacob asked. She snuffed out a breath of frigid air, and her blue-green eyes popped open. "Oh, hi, boss," she said. She craned her back against her garments. "Couldn't ya have picked a better cave to sleep in? Felt like I was sleepin' on ruttin' rocks." Jacob eyed her askance. "Are you alright?" "Besides having bruises in places I don't like thinkin' on, just shiny," she said, continuing past him. Zane glanced at her, casting a flicking thumb between her back and him, mouthing the words 'what happened?' Jacob shook his head. "I'm as lost on this as you are," Jacob said slowly. <> She picked up the pistol. She remembered this one. This one was handed to her on the day she left by Fat-Cho. Said it was to keep her from harm, since he couldn't go his own self. She opened the cylinder, noting that at least Jacob had taken the time to clean it at least once in the last year. Still needed some major care before she used it again. She slid the revolver into her hip holster and moved on to the next gun. This was Tony's shotgun. She recalled that big, blustery bastard, the way he loved his weapons a way he could never love a woman, the hidden inflections he always unsuccessfully stifled any time somebody mentioned the Alliance. She'd found the weapon, less a few shots, laying on the deck plating of the BlackJack. Seeing that let her know exactly how dire the situation was, regardless of the bodies in the hold. Tony didn't go anywhere without his shotgun. Not until that last few minutes, she meant. She carefully picked the weapon up. It was meticulous, obviously having much more attention from Jacob, and possibly even Anne, than the other pieces in her collection. It meant something to them, too. She racked the gun, surprised when a shell popped out. They kept it loaded? She shook her head, sliding the round into the speedloader and holstered the weapon under her armpit. It was about then that she heard the sound of somebody descending the ladder. "What the hell are you doin' in my bunk?" Anne asked. She heard the sound of cloth sliding past metal, no doubt that little six Anne was carrying all the time, now. She shook her head. It was odd, she pondered. She was always so used to being able to read people, get impressions off them without even looking. Now, though, everything was all akimbo. She couldn't get a decent read off of anybody but Jacob, which made this situation a bit perilous. So she picked up another pistol and began to speak. "I am not having sex with your husband," Sylvia said. She cast a glance over her shoulder, noting the way Anne was given pause. Sylvia returned to her task. "I have not, at any point in the past, done so, either. I have no intention of stealing him from you." "That don't explain you bein' in my bunk," Anne said strongly. "Although, you should be a bit ashamed of yourself, thinking anybody could steal Jacob from you," Sylvia continued. "That man is devoted to you in a way few women ever inspire, and thinkin' he'll just up and leave you stinks more of paranoia than prudence." "Put that down," Anne said. Sylvia laughed at the tone. "Why?" Sylvia asked. "It's mine." "You're not supposed to be touchin' guns." Sylvia cast another wan glance over her shoulder, now picking up the last piece of her collection, the rack itself. "He won't ever leave you, Anne," Sylvia said, making her way toward the ladder. "He'll be yours until one or the other of you croaks. So if you want to crucify somebody, look somewhere the hell else." "Wait," Anne said, blocking Sylvia's way. "What?" "What the hell happened out there?" the small woman asked. Sylvia smiled a bit. "Somebody showed me the way out." With that, she forced her way past Jacob's wife and made her way up the ladder, leaving Anne to stare at her ass for all she cared. In truth, the last eleven and a half months were kinda hazy to her, and she hadn't the first clue where they were. Saint Albans, sure, but besides that. Why was Jacob so constantly afraid? Why did Zane look at her with a gaze that flickered between old friend and old lover? And where on this ruttin' boat was Friday? She shook her head as she stepped out into the hall. That last question was answered when a figure rose out of the bunk next to Jacob's. "'Bout damn time I seen... you're not Friday," Syl said. The woman shook her head tersely, muttering about a crazy woman as she skirted around her. Sylvia frowned, keeping her eyes on Friday's doppelganger. She seemed to remember something about a dying woman lying in a room full of leaves... Monday. This one was Monday, if her memory served. It didn't, not so well for the last year, but usually did. She had a feeling she had a lot of catching up to do. A glance past the kitchen let her see Jacob, who was having words with Zane about one thing or another. She knew he was irritated, from the way he stood, but that irritation was shot through with virulent paranoia, suspicion, fear and a rage barely held in check. She blinked, making sure she was looking at Jacob. It seemed as if his entire essence had been stripped out and this new soul transplanted in, something in constant battle between terror and righteous rage. It worried her that her mind depended on him, like this. As she descended the ladder into her bunk, she thought back on what River had said, back in that cave. "You cannot escape the cell," River said silently, a voice in Sylvia's head, contending with the hundreds of others and beating them soundly. "The lock is on the wrong side, and so is the key." "I don't want to go back to that dark place," Sylvia wept. "I want to see the sunrise again." "I shouldn't tell you this. Not mine to tell," River muttered. "Please!" Sylvia begged. "I want out!" "There is a thing that can be done. Something which... helped... me. But once done, it cannot be undone. Once initiated, it is inviolate," River lectured. "And he will suffer if you chose poorly." "I'll do anything. Just let me out!" "Very well," River said with finality to her high voice. "Here is what you must do. Understand how it works between Jayne and I. He may want me, but I need him. And so it shall be with you." Sylvia mounted the rack back onto her wall, and began placing her weapons back onto it, one by one until only the shotgun remained in her hands. How many times had she considered just putting a bullet to her brainpan and letting it all drift away? That option was now closed to her forever, and just as well. She wouldn't be the only life forfiet if she did that, now. She wondered how she could possibly tell him the price of her awakening, the cost of her sanity. She wondered if it was even worth the price.

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